Thursday, June 11, 2015

Finding My Focus

My new super Macro lens takes great close up pictures that have a shallow "depth of field" (ie, the part of the picture that's in focus). That can be good for isolating the subject but you do have to decide what you want to focus on.

Do you focus on the details that are closest to you while making the "big picture" slightly out of focus? Or do you focus on the petals and leave the stuff closest to you blurry?

I was musing on this as it relates to photography while weeding the garden this week. Weeding is a great time for contemplating my navel thinking about my philosophy of life. The garden was very weedy so this topic expanded into finding the focus in my life.

When I was younger I always had plans for the future. After graduating high school I'll go to THIS college because I want to go to vet school. OK. maybe not vet school. Next I'll go to graduate school. OK. I need to take a few years between undergrad and graduate school. No problem. 

Toward the end of graduate school I quit making much in the way of future plans. Graduate school didn't quite work out as I had planned and while I did eventually plan my next career move it kind of stalled after that.

So lately I've been plan-less. 

And I feel "scattered." I  have a good job that I mostly enjoy. I don't have any major career plans because once I reach full professor (tenured) I don't intend to move into administration. We aren't moving any time soon (a first for me in a LONG time - this house is the second longest I've ever lived in one place in my whole life). No major life changes coming up that require plans. No major changes coming up (that I can predict).

So that leave my "personal" life. I've taken an art class, I've enrolled in a Spanish class, I've dabbled in this and that but not really found a focus (except gardening). This leaves me feeling like I'm not accomplishing anything.

It's not an accurate perception but it's there.

So I decided to sit down and list all of the categories of stuff I'm interested in and have claimed to be working on and make plans. One year, two year, five year and ten year goals.

Do I want to become proficient in Spanish or just learn enough to help while traveling (the latter, definitely)?

Do I want to spend more time and energy improving my photography? My writing skills? My drawing/art?

Do I want to work on finally refinishing inherited furniture that needs work? Will I ever replace the no longer functioning innards of the 1950s era radio with a modern system (an iPod doc, anyone?) or is it fine as an aesthetic piece?

It's time to find a focus. What will I do in "this" lifetime?

Thanks to Zack Weiner of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and BAHfest for this GREAT concept!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

A small sampling of what can be found in my garden right now.

Centaurea montana Black Sprite

Digitalis too-lazy-to-go-check-labelii

Baptisia australis

An unidentified Opiliones who clearly hadn't had her coffee yet
(these are commonly known as Daddy Long Legs or Harvestmen and they are ALL OVER my garden this year)

Trasdescantia too-brightus

No, she's not quite that bright but I like the level of detail so I included it anyway

Friday, June 5, 2015

Close Up Friday

I'm still playing learning to use my new Macro lens so there's no "theme" to today's images except - NEW MACRO LENS WOO HOO!

Veronica prostrata (Speedwell Aztec Gold) close

Veronica prostrata (Speedwell Aztec Gold) closer

Unknown eggs on Panicum virgatum Cloud Nine

Possibly these are eggs of a predatory insect in the genus Podisus 
(based on one comment on Bug Guide. net)

Flower of Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo')

Even closer. I love the way the pinkish/redish anthers look 3-D

Lastly, a little jumping spider that was crawling on my desk this week

Yes, that's a pad of drawing paper. A little thicker than average printer or notebook paper but not much. Did I say little? I meant TINY. Jumping spiders are soooo cute. Too bad I couldn't get closer.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Favorite NEW Plant in the Garden This Week

One of my favorite new plants in the garden are the Icelandic Poppies (Papaver nudicaula).

I noticed these from several isles away at the local garden center. Yellow and Orange do not go with the front yard color scheme so I passed them up.

But when I came home I kept thinking about them and looked them up on-line. They got rave reviews so I looked around the back yard (which does not have a color scheme) and found a spot they could fit.

What bright and cheerful color. Before I could even get them in the ground they were covered with bees. That fits the overall theme of my garden - Pollinators R Us.

Papaver nudicaule is a short lived perennial with a long bloom season in cooler climates. Native to circumpolar boreal regions (ie northern parts of North America and Asia). I'm hoping these will re-seed in the garden and come back next year. I'll be sure to leave some pods on the plants at the end of the season.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gardening Philosophy

Part of my personal gardening philosophy is that I have a moral imperative to share "my" garden with the other animals that live there. I do have exceptions for potentially dangerous animals. No yellow jackets allowed, for example (The Husband is allergic and yellow jackets are too aggressive). But otherwise I live and let live. 

My philosophy is sometimes strained. The year we had a sawfly outbreak and their larvae munched on my Aqueligia leaves (columbine) so bad that they actually killed a couple of plants (the Denver Gold was the only the only thing that didn't come back) was rough. But, unlike most of my fellow tool using primates, I restrained from dumping poison into the environment for the sake of aesthetics and most of my Aquelegia came back just fine.

Yes, I am a bit rabid about environmental protection.

This year I have a new challenge.

"Tamias minimus" by Phil Armitage - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Chipmunks. We seems to have a large number of them in our area this year. The Husband (and The Cats) have spotted them in our yard. I've seen several of them in our neighborhood and I've seen the signs in my garden.

It's hard to see but there is a chipmunk hole under the crocus foliage.

Sadly for me chipmunks eat bulbs. So much for my tulips. I guess I'll plant them in pots this winter.

Good for me chipmunks also eat seeds. They can have ALL of the maple seeds they can eat!

It may be a challenge for my garden but my belief system says I need to let them stay. Besides it would be really difficult to get rid of them. I'm a biologist and I understand how niches work. Got a niche? Something will fill it.  I get rid of the girl in my garden and someone else will move it.Better a chipmunk than a ground hog or a skunk!

Besides. It entertains the cats.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I'm Ready for My Close Up

Working with my new Macro Lens is both fun and challenging. Fun because you get up close and personal with the garden (I'm sure the neighbors think I'm weird when they see me contorting to get the lens at the right angle that close to the ground) 

Aqueligia fragrans (columbine) against the sky -  a fragrant variety I grew from seeds I had to order from Plant World Seeds in the United Kingdom. Shot from BELOW.

and challenging because I live about 2 miles from the ocean as the gull flies and there is almost always a breeze blowing. This is nice on warm afternoons and miserable when you're trying to photograph plants.

Here's my latest stuff.

Hope you don't mind insect photos. I really enjoy all of the invertebrate life my garden attracts and now I can take pictures of all the little guys and gals!
I don't know what this is. Looks kind of like a small crane fly. I'll have to hit

Pansies (Viola tricolor var. bigboxus) are still looking good. I suspect they'll be done after this week of temperatures in the 80s.

A friendly Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) wanting to know what I'm doing down on the ground by the pansies. She eventually turned around and went back in her hiding spot. I have at least three that are frequenting my front garden this year and helping me stay slug-free!

A Petunia (Petunia lgc) that was planted around the pansies that will hopefully replace them as the pansies die from the heat.

So many of today's shots are from the area by the fireplace because that area is somewhat protected from the breezes. 

And this Hymenopteran (bee or wasp) is what really makes my new lens exciting. It was crawling across the petunia as I was photographing the bloom and I just caught it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Toy

I had a busy and challenging semester this past spring so The Husband bought me a new toy. A macro lens for my camera. It's the Venus (Laowa Lens) V-DX 60 mm F2.8, 2:1 super macro lens.

In laymens' terms - it takes pictures of tiny things very close up.

Like ants eating a nut.

Not close enough? How about this..

It was windy today (as usual) so I took the lens into the woods to take close ups of some native plants.

Fiddlehead, up close

Jack in the Pulpit

Solomon's seal

The thing is, when you are close enough to the ground to take pictures this up close and personal you notice other things, too.

Like a tiny spider hiding among the blooms on the Solomon's seal (the black dot is caterpillar frass!)

And the fly that keeps landing on the fiddlehead near the one I'm photographing.

And the wasp (I think) with bright red "thighs."

I wish I'd taken entomology when I was in college. Or that an entomology class was offered at a university near me at a time I could attend the class (the only one I've found near by meets at the same time as our weekly faculty meetings - I'd much rather take the class!).

For you, dear reader, this will (hopefully) mean more and better photographs.

If I can muster enough patience to wait out the sea breezes.